e can speculate why after deflecting calls for a speech on the Mormon issue Romney now decides the time is right. His campaign contends “nothing changed” and a speech was always under consideration. But as recently as November 12
he said: ” I have some folks who think I should do it soon, some say later, some say never, some say right away.I’ll make the decision. But there’s no particular urgency because I’m making progress in the states where I’m campaigning.” He also seemed to resist the notion on Face the Nation
, after remarking that his advisors told him not to give such a speech. I can think of two factors (connected to one another, most certainly): Iowa and failure to close the deal with social conservatives. The Des Moines poll is clearly bad news and the Iowa State University poll due out tomorrow is likely provoking some more nail biting in the Romney camp. The Speech gives a shot to deflect the press from the “Romney collapse/Huckabee surge” storyline.( Some of the coverage is a bit overblown-Romney’s resources still make him the odds on favorite to win and $7M plus has to have bought him something) It is also an opportunity to try to recapture the large block of social conservatives there (and in other states) which Huckabee is scooping up. As we have discussed before Romney’s polling
with religious conservatives nationwide shows he has work to do. However, The Speech seems a huge gamble– risking stirring up the hornet’s nest of concern and sending commentators into a new round of discussion of whether Evangelicals will support a Mormon. Given the stakes, the level of concern about Iowa must be very high.
UPDATE: Yuval Levin
writes: “Among other things, the decision to do this suggests the Romney team is finding what a couple of other Republican campaigns have hinted at about the fine details of their Iowa polling: that Romney’s slip in Iowa, and Huckabee’s rise, has to do with an implicit but very real unease about his Mormonism among evangelical protestants who might otherwise be inclined to support him. ” Ramesh Ponnuru
thinks the “religious liberty” topic isn’t truth in advertising.